March is almost gone, and April soon upon us. Today was my last day to do some training with Scoop as tomorrow I head out for AKC Nationals, sadly just to watch not to compete. Last year I was only able to compete in a couple AKC trials, and did not come close to qualifying. I have already shown more in 2011, than I did in all of 2010!
I have been on the road a lot this past month, and more to come. I will be spending only 12 days sleeping in my own bed in April. Some of those away days I will be competing. Scoop will get to attend a few USDAA shows, and I am looking forward to the experience while still a bit anxious about the outcome. I have not trained Scoop on the higher A-frame, and would really prefer not to, however I doubt USDAA is changing their rules for me this month:) so I will be doing some scrambling to introduce the higher frame to him starting next week.
What I have been thinking about this past week with Scoop is duration in behavior training. As I push Scoop to perform longer without reinforcements, I am seeing some of our weaknesses. I need him to be able to perform multiple accurate contacts in a row without stepping in to reward each one, and have them not fail. I need him to hold his stays in the face of extreme distractions and for him to stay in those positions longer. It is easy to get Scoop to do a 15 minute down stay while watching agility when I step in every few minutes to reward him. So is that five, three minute down stays, or a 15 minute one with 5 reinforcements? I’d like Scoop to be able to do his accurate and animated heelwork on both my left and right for a minimum of a few minutes without me needing to carry a toy with me, or to reward in the middle of the training.
I don’t expect him to train without rewards, but I also know that asking for longer duration on some behaviors at least once in a while, will help me in the long run by teaching him to be able to focus on a job for longer periods of time, like being able to run a couple standard classes over an hour time period with the confidence to know that his start lines, contacts and weaves won’t deteriorate without the almost ever present toy and treat reinforcements he gets when we train.
Some of Scoop’s behaviors seem extremely durable. I can leave him in an open crate at the opposite end of my field, 150 feet away from where I am teaching a lesson. He is quiet, relaxed and never gets out of the cage. At the same time if I call him out of the crate to me on his release word (break) he will come tearing as fast as he is able to me at any given moment. I love that! I want all his behaviors to be this reliable with as much duration as I have time to teach.
The weather was a huge interference again this week in my training plans. I have been home for a week, but only a few of those days have been without rain, and soggy standing water training fields. We have done lots of indoor games and tricks and have continued to polish up his 2o2o behavior so that he is not trying to reach back and target the board instead of nose touching the ground between his feet. We did some sessions on multiple position changes; sit, down, stand, break, stand on your hind legs, drop your head to the ground, and did them in fast multiples without a break before he got reinforced. I did heelwork for minutes at a time and had a great game at the end. I’d have rather been out in the field but we had fun nonetheless.
Tonight I let Scoop run in a class that I taught. He was a pretty good boy, no bars, good contacts, great serps, perfect start-lines, a little struggle with a tough weave entry, but so did some of the other talented dogs in this masters level class. Mostly the wheels stayed in place and we had a fun time training.
Since we couldn’t train much over the last week we had some fun time in the fields and in my winter pond which comes with the rain, and goes away with the sunny days soon to come. I hope you enjoy all the wet photos and I hope you enjoyed your week with your champion in training as much as I did with mine.